12/28/2008

Little Holiday Jokes for Sunday

Definition:
Claustrophobia: Fear of being trapped in a chimney with a fat man in a red suit.

Sure, getting that fat man down small chimneys is impressive. But I'm more amazed by the fact that he can get around on roofs that must be slick with reindeer poop.

I wonder:
- Does Santa deliver gifts on Christmas eaves?
- Is Christmas for those who know how to enjoy thems elves?

12/24/2008

Santa's Last Stanza

Some holiday poetry for you:

Santa's Last Stanza

video


For those who want to follow along:

'Twas the night before Christmas, when Al threw the house
Warming party next door and got drunk, the old souse.
Some stockings were hung by our chimney with care,
Along with their owners, who should not have been there.

The children were wrestled like slugs into beds,
While remains of the sugar-highs drained from their heads.
And Mom in her bathrobe, and me in my socks,
Had just settled down and turned on the box.

When outside I heard what I thought was a gun;
So I sprang from the couch to phone 9-1-1.
Away to the cordless I shakily crawled
Took down the phone, dialed numbers, and called.

Then noticed outside, that the lawn was so bright,
Just like the cops with big spotlights at night.
Then what, to my sleep-addled eyes should appear,
But a fat man on a sled driving eight big reindeer.

The driver looked cunning, and lively and quick,
I knew in a moment he was coming to nick
Our TV and our stuff, or at least he would try,
Then I noticed he turned to his beasties to cry:

"Now, Masher! now, Dachsund! now Pantsuit and Fishing!
On, Stomach! on Stupid! on, Fondle and Pissing!
Onto the porch, and don't hit the wall!
Now for the getaway! Runaway all!"

As children, after breaking stuff, magically fly,
And find every hiding place, ground, sea, and sky,
So up to the top of my house they did scoot,
That old sled, that fat man, and that bundle of loot.

And then, to my fear, I heard on the roof,
The reindeer all grunting, and the chubby old goof.
As I searched for my gun, and was turning around,
Into the fireplace came the man big and round.

He was dressed like a bum, in a parka or two,
And covered in soot right down to his shoe.
A bag full of stolen goods hung on his back,
And he looked wild-eyed, probably hopped-up on crack.

His eyes -- were they bloodshot! and sunken to boot!
His complexion was awful, the crazy old coot!
His mouth was mumbling, and starting to drool,
And the beard of his chin was the color of gruel.

A stub of cigar clamped in teeth somewhat loose
Belched out black smoke round his neck like a noose.
He had a fat face, and a distended belly,
That shook when he coughed and spat phlegm that was smelly.

He was grossly obese, a right squalid old man,
And I gagged when I saw him, in want of a fan.
A squint of his eye and a jerk of his head,
Soon gave me to know I was better off dead.

But then he ignored me, and reached in his sack,
And filled all our stockings and left gifts in a stack.
And putting his finger far up his nose,
He gave me a nod and up the chimney he rose.

They charged off like a scene in a piece by Lord Tennyson,
Except he was driving eight dirty old venison.
I heard him cry out, as he drove out of sight,
"Happy Christmas, and so on, et cetera. Good night!"

12/22/2008

Happy Thoughts for Monday

If at first you don't succeed, cry, cry again.

If at first you don't succeed, use a bigger gun.

If at first you don't succeed, lie. They'll never know.

If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. But remove the arrow from your foot first.

If at first you don't succeed, hire someone to do it for you.

12/19/2008

When I am King: Getting Older Still

When I am King...

We will all be unable to move.

Have you ever noticed how people, as they get older, move less and less? And how old people tend to move very little, spending their days in thought, in chairs, or in an intensive care unit at the hospital?

Many people think that this lack of movement is due to health issues, or simply slower physical capability. But no - their stationary positions are deliberate, coming from one of the biggest life lessons that we are all put on the planet to learn: we lose stuff.

How many times have you put down your glasses somewhere, only to wander away and forget where you put them? How many times have you similarly lost your car keys, or your coffee cup, or your infant child?

And yet we keep on bombing around our lives, picking up stuff and then putting it down, over and over. In fact, experts say that our inability to keep our stuff is the main driving force in our weak economy, because we simply have to keep replacing things.

Meanwhile, the old people sit in their rocking chairs, smiling, humming show tunes from the 40's, and watching us all through the glasses they put on in 1984 and haven't taken off since.

The key to not losing things is simply not to move; it is our unceasing movement that causes the loss. But why?

Researchers at the Intitut de Grendl Froosht┼▒┼▒k in Freso, California have discovered that all things in the universe have a life force and an accompanying drive to propagate. This is evident in living creatures, where propagation involves mating, alcohol, and online dating services, but it is perhaps not as obvious with inanimate objects. These objects cannot reproduce, obviously (with the sole exception of single socks), so their non-biological imperative is simply to spread themselves around and see a bit of the world. Lacking the mobility to do this themselves, they manipulate us to do it for them, forcing us to repeatedly go out for a cup of coffee and then visit the bathroom, or to simply wander around the house in a daze wondering what we got up for. (Apparently, this mental telepathy from the objects is the source of the occasional high-pitched whine that we sometimes hear; the objects broadcast outside of our hearing range, but the broadcasting frequency varies as they go through puberty.)

And then after we've been alive and manipulated for some years, moving around aimlessly and losing stuff just becomes habit.

Old people have learned about loss and have also learned preventative measures. For one thing, their hearing starts to go, which enables them to be less prone to suggestion from random objects. But more importantly, they have learned to ignore the impulse to move, preferring to sit complacently, stuff intact, while they watch the rest of us bumble through life.

When I am King, all people will be required to stay still at all times, to prevent further loss of our stuff. Although voluntary, the program may be easier for some people to comply with the glue, staples, and railroad spikes provided.

As we all stop wasting our time wandering around, the ensuing gain in productivity will more than offset the economic loss from stuff-replacement. And ours will be a stress-free society because we can stop worrying about where we put our glasses or our car keys, or what made us get up in the first place.

12/14/2008

Little Fruit Jokes for Monday

I wonder:

If you wrote a novel with ink made from oranges, would it be pulp fiction?

Is removing the rind from an orange a-peeling?

Does an apple tree have a core competency?

12/05/2008

Holiday Joke for Friday

It was Christmas Eve, and a blizzard was raging at the North Pole. Santa had to get the presents out, but he knew his normal team of reindeer wouldn't be able to make it.

He decided he'd finally ask Donner's kid - that nerd with the light-up nose.

"Hey there, Rupert!"
"It's Rudolph, Santa"
"Sure, whatever kid. Say, have I got a deal for you. You want to lead Santa's sleigh this year?"
"No way."
"No? Whattaya mean no? Quit playing these reindeer games! I'm asking if you want the dream job of all reindeer and you say 'no'? You can fly, you know the job, and you've got this whacko nose that lights up. Now why don't you want to do it?"
"Santa, it's snowing like crazy out there. I'm not getting lit and then driving this crew around the whole night."

12/02/2008

When I am King: Price Fixing

When I am King...

My book will be significantly cheaper.

Oh wait - it already is!

Just in time for the holidays: the price of the book When I am King... has been slashed from $14.30 down to $7.95. (By the way, isn't slashed such a nice term for price reduction? It connotes both a price cut and a bloody horror film in 7 easy letters). The original price was, I thought, a reasonable price for the category of "as a favor to the author," but this new price is I believe closer to a real price for a real book.

But why, might you ask, did the book ever get priced so high to begin with? Was it like small colleges with tuitions so painfully unaffordable that you remember your education for every ensuing day of your debt-ridden life? Or was it that the humor in the book was so sophisticated that it could only be appreciated at double-digit prices? Or was it instead that the publisher foresaw that the book would surely become a collectors' item, soon available on auction sites at huge multiples of that price?

In fact, the answer is far more interesting: I could see the impending economic world disaster and wanted to do my part by being able to offer the book later at a substantial discount. In this small way, I wanted to help shoppers feel that they were saving money that they could then put toward other, less important things in life like rent, food, and chemotherapy treatments. By spending less on this book, buyers can now afford to both live a little longer and enjoy the book. I would hate for people to have to choose between these two priorities, so it is wonderful to be able to provide the option of having both. Or of having two books instead for about the same price.

Buy it for yourself or as a present, or for yourself in the present. And when times get really tough, think of it as 170 pieces of paper that you got at the cheap price of under five cents each.

And if you number among the privileged few that took advantage of the offer to buy the book at the exciting, earlier, higher price, congratulations for owning the truly collectable First Edition of the book.

For anyone that actually cares about the real story:
I found a new publisher, createspace, which makes it possible to publish on Amazon.com at a much better (read: lower) price. Lulu.com, my first publisher, provides a reasonable service. But if you want to sell the book anywhere outside of the Lulu site, such as on Amazon, you basically double the retail price, which is how I got such an extraodinary price as $14.80 when the book first came out. The Lulu quality is quite good, and the pages seem to be of heavier weight and creamier complexion than those of the createspace edition ... but I doubt people want to buy this book because of what's on the inside. Instead, I think people generally judge a book by its cover.

Geekonomics

Many people have been confused as the American economy has recently gone further down the drain and the cost for the wreckage keeps rising. At first, the leaders proposed a $700 billion bailout package. But recent estimates have put the final price tag closer to $7 trillion. That's $7,000,000,000,000.

Is the economy really in such bad and unknowable shape that the cost to repair it could be off by an order of magnitude or more, and that the final price tag might be more than the GDP of the entire galaxy?

Fear not: the experts know, as they always do, exactly what they're doing. They are using a monetary technique that comes from computer science called the "MAXINT Effect".

In computers, all numbers are represented in binary form and stored as 1s and 0s. Each number takes up a certain number of 'bits', or places that hold a one or a zero. For example, an short integer typically uses 16 bits of storage, which can store unsigned numbers of up to 65,535, or half of that if the number can be both negative and positive.

Since these numbers have only that storage space given to them, they can only reach that maximum value. For integers, the value is referred to as MAXINT. If you insist on adding more to the number, the bits will carry the one right past the end and it will be lost forever like socks in the dryer, or parental advice to kids. The number, meanwhile, will be essentially start over again.

For example, adding 1 to 65,535 in a 16-bit storage area will result in 0.

Let me say that again, because it's an important fact and one that lies at the heart of every economist's graduate degree: Adding 1 to a really big number can sometimes result in that number being equal to zero. These people go to incredibly boring classes for years to learn this, and now you know it.

Meanwhile, another important principle in computer science has important bearing on the problem. All numbers, and all information in general, is represented in computers in blocks of 8 bits, which is called a byte. It's not clear why this is, although historians suspect that the first computer scientists lacked opposable thumbs and therefore counted more easily to 8 than to 10.

Any number represented in a computer will, by convention and necessity, will have storage space equal to some multiple of 8 bits.

Now, let's go back to our economy and think about the problem again with our new-found geekonomic perspective.

The old bailout price tag was a measly $700 billion, or in binary form, 10100010 11111011 01000000 01011000 00000000, which is represented easily in 40 bits of storage. But if we push the price just past a trillion, or $1,099,511,527,776 to be exact, we will need 41 bits to represent the number, or 1 00000000 00000000 00000000 00000000 00000000.

Note that we just pushed past an 8-bit multiple, and now require 6 bytes to store the new number.

Now I don't know what your experience is, but I find that the government usually provides just enough to get by, without much left over for slack. And since we're talking about numbers here that are much larger than anyone conceived of before, it's likely that there was no need for such large storage for the numbers, and thus they simply found a number of bytes that would probably do the trick. That 5 bytes of storage had served our country well throughout our history, why change it now?

Economists realized this 5-byte limit. So when we were already talking about a debt of $700 billion, it was much easier to plan on spending more than that than it was on holding the costs down. And by spending just a wee bit more, just over a trillion, they could roll that debt number right over to zero.

So when the experts talk about $7 trillion, they're just putting the number so high that we'll miss the fact that as it passes $1 billion, our economic woes will be gone.

You may be thinking that this is new and radical thinking, but other computer techniques are used elsewhere in our economy. For example, companies that cannot maintain revenue, products, and basic business plans often see their stock dive. At a certain point, the executives realize that it is far easier to make the stock go below zero than it is to raise it up again. This strategy uses the inverse of the MAXINT effect, commonly called TNIXAM, causing the stock price to wrap around from zero to some absurdly high number.

TNIXAM works because stock prices cannot go negative. A negative stock price would mean that the company owed shareholders something, which is clearly not how business works. So if a company's stock price ever goes past zero, it will do so by wrapping around to a large positive number instead.

This technique is why you often see companies floundering as their stock price gets lower and lower. One would naturally think that the companies should change direction, leadership, products, marketing, or anything in a desperate attempt to start selling things again and get that stock price up. But it's far easier to just keep doing the same thing and drive the price right into the ground and back out the other side.

There is some who think that stock prices use the 'bounce' technique instead, which says that if they hit a price of $0 hard enough they will bounce up higher than before. But that theory is ridiculous and not based on any solid, numerical principles like TNIXAM.